"Fire Lances Of The Ancient Hyperzephyrians" by The Sword
For all intents and purposes, The Sword's Gods Of The Earth is the exact same album as its predecessor, Age Of Winters. That isn't a good thing. Like the group's debut, Gods sounds like a botched retelling of a bad joke about heavy metal. Every moldy riff can be smelled from miles away, and each battleaxe-and-wizard-littered image is lifted wholesale from the side of a '70s custom van. Of course, there's a thin line between having fun and poking fun—but it's never clear where The Sword is coming from. Sadly, it seems likely that these guys take what they do seriously. When did mythic quests and thunderous battles become so quotidian and inconsequential? How can cranking everything to 11 produce such a whimper? With metal-scavenging bands like Big Business and Saviours currently stalking the earth with far more brute force and riff-wielding instinct, The Sword feels dull. In spite of a few points for basic competency—the band deserves at least a little credit for figuring out how to hold their guitars with the strings facing the right way—Age Of Winters comes off as the soundtrack to a particularly lame tactical RPG. Final Fantasy? If only.